Archive | July 2010

Why should you See a Movie at a Film Fest vs. Netflix? I’ll Tell You Why

Yesterday, I went to movie at the 10th Ames-Amzalak Rochester Jewish Film Festival. I went on yet another one of these very long beautiful summer days where I have hours of time all to myself.

Just  like last week’s “too much kid free time on my hands” list, I did do some cooking and some heavy-duty cleaning of my kids bedrooms. Then, I heard the voice of Robin Williams in Dead Poet’s Society in my head: “Seize the Day.”

At some point, I did rationalize away the indulgent thought of going to a movie, in the middle of the week, in the middle of the day, all by myself. My husband was working hard in his windowless office all week. Who am I to go out and enjoy a film, in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week? After all, any movie shown at the Festival, between now and August 2, I can eventually see on a DVD rental.  

But I went. And I enjoyed.

The movie, an Israeli film called Eli & Ben, was set in Hezliyah.  Here is the first reason why you should go to a film festival. These movies are hand-picked by diversely populated committees that sift out the best films : Film festival films offer the opportunity to learn about the geography and culture of another part of the world.

How many movies do you know that are set in Herzliya, a coastal town in Israel? How much do you know about Israel outside what you hear on the news? Because of the Jewish Film Festival, I have seen movies set in the mystical city of Tzefat, hip Tel Aviv, a kibbutz, or spiritual Jerusalem.

Foreign film festivals allow you to improve language skills. After viewing enough movies in Hebrew, I start to recognize sentence and verb structure that I hadn’t thought about since college. I only wish that when I visit Israel everyone can walk around with subtitles.  

But the main reason is the communal feeling you get from going to the theatre. Remember how I said I went alone? I really wasn’t alone.  As I settled into my seat at the JCC, I was flanked by two friends that I had met there by complete chance. It couldn’t have worked out better if it was planned.  Unlike going to a commercial theatre, film festival theatres are filled with the pre-film chatter and schmoozing and catching up with friends. The film was then personally announced by the festival’s chairperson. Sometimes, the director himself may be present to introduce the film or answer questions afterwards. During the film, I sat with an audience completely engaged with what was on the screen. Our emotions played off one another as we laughed, sighed or gasped in unison. If I Netflixed the same film, I most likely would have zonked out on the couch before it was even over.

Here is a list of movies I have enjoyed at Jewish Film Festivals through the years. True, most people, even pass holders, are not fortunate to see all of them on film. Whatever ethnic, racial or other niche you find yourself in, go see a good film in the company of others.

Here is a list of just some of the films I have seen thanks to the Rochester Jewish Film Festival. To see descriptions of these movies, or an archive from past film festivals, go to www.rjff.org

  • Ben & Eli
  • Walk on Water
  • Zrubavel
  • Pinchas
  • The Syrian Bride
  • A Late Marriage
  • Live and Become
  • Lemon Tree
  • Close to Home
  • Defiance
  • The Case for Israel

RENT, Red Ribbons and Rides: AIDS Awareness then and now

The first time I saw the musical RENT was on Broadway back in 1998. My husband surprised me with orchestra seats for our anniversary. He even arranged for our infant daughter to be watched by a friend who lived on the upper west side of Manhattan so we could enjoy our night on the town.  As we exited the theatre, volunteers from the organization Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS gave out red ribbons in exchange for a small donation.  

 Flash forward to last week. That same 18-month old infant, now 13 years old, sat between my husband  and me as we experienced a phenomenal performance of RENT at the Rochester Jewish Community Center’s Hart Theatre. 

 We prepared her for RENT’s mature themes days ahead and she listened to the show’s musical score for hours in the privacy of her room.  During and after the performance, she made two striking comments that opened the doorway for several important conversations.

First, she was surprised at how many of the characters had AIDS.  She didn’t realize the disease was “that contagious.” Now, I know that our school district starts AIDS education in the fifth grade. But I guess a pamphlet on the disease is no match to watching someone on stage who is portraying someone living with and then dying from AIDS.

Secondly, when the show was over and I told her about the red ribbons — and how red ribbons once seemed to be everywhere, on the lapel of a jacket by the ordinary person on the street, to adorning the sequined gowns of celebreties and entertainers on TV award shows.  I remarked how odd it felt that the red ribbons should be absent at this performance. To my shock, she replied,  “Well, mom, I guess AIDS is not such a big issue anymore.”

Yikes!

But then again, why would AIDS/HIV seem a big issue to her and her peers? Did it unfold itself on a daily, horrifying basis as it did when my generation, the Gen Xers, were coming of age in the 80s? And, why would it be a big issue for teens her age in this age?  AIDS is not new anymore. An entire generation has gone by not even knowing that a time existed before AIDS.

Did she wake up one morning to her favorite radio station to learn that Freddy Mercury, one of the greatest voices of Rock ‘n Roll had confirmed the rumour that he was dying of AIDS? Sadly, my kids know about Freddy Mercury, but only posthumously. Or what about Magic Johnson? Can they appreciate the fact that he is still alive today after announcing he was infected with HIV nearly two decades ago? Do TV characters on the Disney Channel or any other program she watch portray those who suffer with AIDS/HIV, as the television shows like “ER,” “My So Called Life” and even “A Different World” did?

Then, it made me wonder, when was the last time the AIDS quilt was displayed, or pictures of it appeared in the media? She had never seen pieces of the AIDS quilt when it was small, or lived through the time as time went by that the AIDS quilt grew to the size of several football fields, and then to a size so big it could no longer be displayed in one place.

She didn’t ride the subways in NYC in the 1980s and 90s to see young people laying on the floor with a placard containing these words: Homeless with AIDS. Please Help.

Though there were no volunteers distributing red ribbons in the JCC lobby that evening, I did find a display with brochures for AIDS Red Ribbon Ride to benefit AIDS Care.  That the JCC in its wisdom produced RENT, and that my daughter and many teens may not see AIDS as a contemporary issue, prove that there is still much work to be done.  AIDS Care hopes to raise $50,000 from a combined five-day Finger Lakes tour on August 18-22 culminating with a separate one-day tour on August 22 to provide funding for AIDS education and services and clinical research for people living with AIDS/HIV.

 In Monroe County New York, 2,026 people are diagnosed each year with HIV and 56,000 are infected annually nationwide. The AIDS Red Ribbon Ride will help those living with HIV/AIDS gain greater independence and get the treatment and care they need. Prevention services geared towards high-risk populations will ensure that future generations will not experience the same level of loss that we have faced in the last two decades.

One rider, Phyllis Fleischman of Pittsford, was so dedicated to this cause that she spoke to me while away on business in the Netherlands as to why she is participating. She and her cycling team over the last several years have raised $200,000 for AIDS research and services. As she makes her way along the 420-mile five-day course through the Finger Lakes region and back to Genesee Valley Park, it will be her team, and thinking about the people she will be helping, that will inspire her.

“When you ride with a team, it is the laughter, even in bad weather that keeps you going. Knowing you are doing something good gets you through the miles,” she said.

Quoting from the lyrics of RENT, there’s no day but today.  If you would like to learn the details of the cycling course, participate in a riding team, volunteer or donate to the five-day-long fundraising event, visit www.AIDSRedRibbonRide.org, call 585-210-4183, or email jdavis@acRochester.org.

Full Sun in the Community Garden

Unfried Green Tomatoes

in my shady garden, my tomatoes dream of a sunny hillside in Tuscany

The Gate to the Brighton Community Garden - and 12 hours of sunshine

At a recent dinner gathering, a friend placed a beautiful mixed green salad on the table and proclaimed that she grew every tender leaf. She and many others living in Brighton are experiencing the pride and joy that comes from working a piece of land at the Brighton Community Garden. And many for the first time, can appreciate what full sun can do do a crop of vegetables.

The Brighton Community Garden is located on Westfall Rd. adjacent to the historic Buckland House. In its second year, it has expanded to 100 10’ by 10’ plots that Brighton residents rent for $25 for the season. Four of these plots, I am told are being used to grow food for a local food cupboard, enhancing the town’s mission of greener and sustainable living.  

Brighton residents who live in older neighborhoods enjoy streets with gas lighting, sidewalks, and very large old trees. Growing vegetables, especially those coveted sun-ripened tomatoes, is difficult in dappled sunlight.  I have obsessed about the trajectory of the sun and how it moves on my property ever since my first hopeful summer.  Each spring, I had high hopes that the sun would burst through the overhead branches and quickly ripen the tomatoes and pumpkin vines that stretched eagerly to meet it.  By the time the summer solstace passes, I am usually stuck with green tomatoes until very late August.

This is why neighbors attempt to grow sun hungry tomatoes and rambling raspberry bushes any place the sun may peek through, like strips of property by the curb or alongside a driveway.   

It wasn’t until I went for a walk in the community garden did I understand what full sun does. You mean you can have ripened tomatoes before the first frost? Enough eggplants and zuchinni that you are begging strangers to take them off your hands?

As I explored the garden, I saw creatively landscaped plots with decorative garden markers, hand crafted scarecrows, and stone paths between rows of climbing pea and cucumber vines. Others were a bit sparse and badly in need of weeding.

Of course, vegetable plants require regular watering. During my visit, several people on breaks from work quickly entered their plot in office work clothes to water. For irrigation, the town places several rain barrels throughout the garden. They are filled either by a hose, or hopefully, rainfall.  Gardeners bring watering cans to these buckets to water their crops.

Brighton resident Sue Gardiner-Smith has been instrumental in the town’s efforts in sustainable gardening.  She is growing potatoes, peppers and zinnias among other produce with her teen-aged son. In addition to the garden, she and others in the town have had discussions with Brighton officials about someday founding a Community Supported Agriculture farm on the property of the old Groos Farm. Next year, I just might apply for a plot of my own. If you are interested in Brighton’s sustainable gardening or farming efforts, or just want to grow a garden in true full sun, send an email to brightoncommunitygarden@gmail.com.

Too much kid-free time on my hands

I just read a Facebook post from a friend that proclaimed that she would be in a much better mood if she could only find the time for a shower.  My friend has impeccable hygiene, she just has a seven month old infant and two older children. If you are a mom, unless you are blessed and fortunate enough to have live-in full-time help, you can completely relate.

Now, I’m a mom at the other end of that rainbow. All you moms out there with oatmeal or spit-up in your hair, it will happen to you too. I remember thinking: OH! what I would give for a MINUTE to myself!

Careful what you ask for….

Today: from 8:20 in the morning till 8 in the evening, I was kid free. Two big kids at sleep away camp for the next four weeks. The youngest on a late night at day camp. So, here’s a list of what I did. Keep in mind, I felt like I had ADHD of the maternal mind. Every time I was doing one thing, I felt I should be doing another, as to not waste one precious moment of this free time:

  1. Went with a friend to the Rochester Public Market, talked about the many great things about living in Rochester, like no traffic, people who don’t honk the nanosecond the light turns green, and.. the Rochester Public Market.
  2. Put fresh basil in a vase. Big plans for the basil:  later be ground into homemade pesto.
  3. Put in a load of laundry (you knew there had to be laundry)
  4. Pulled the plug on the basement freezer which has not been defrosted in over a year. Sorted out identifiable and unidentifiable food substances.
  5. Hung out laundry to dry in July sunshine.
  6. Walked to the library to return books to avoid fines (see previous blog entry)
  7. Came home, and hacked apart the receding glacier in my basement freezer.
  8. Changed linens in daughter’s bedroom (don’t know why I did this, she won’t be home for another month.)
  9. Two minute spin with my new weighted hula hoop.
  10. Practiced my Torah reading for this Saturday.
  11. Realized I should be enjoying the day. Made iced coffee and sat outside. Read two chapters of my current book. Felt guilty that I was not doing more around house or practicing my Torah reading.
  12. Back in basement. Hacked away some more at glacier.
  13. Answered email for column idea. Thought about writing column for next week. Bad idea, should be enjoying the day…
  14. Started making dinner.  At 3pm.  Marinated tomatoes, tossed  chicken in marinade, sliced eggplant & zuchinni to grill. Thought about the impossibly hard words in my Torah reading.
  15. Back to Torah reading practice. But guests were coming in two hours.
  16. Swept patio. Cleaned tables and chairs. But I wasn’t properly savoring summer this way.
  17. Cut bouquet of flowers from my garden, placed in a mason jar on the patio table. There, that’s better.
  18. Washed face just in time for guests. Had a great dinner great conversation.

Toby home from day camp late night at 8:00, claiming the counselors didn’t have time at the late night to make s’mores. So, I found the time to do one last thing on my list, which earned me the current title of best mom on earth. 

I think I have squeezed all I can out of this day. If you had a kid free day, would you know what to do?

Hungry, Fasting, yet Happy Campers

It’s the middle of the afternoon and it hasn’t quite hit me yet, that my two oldest children left this morning for a month of sleep-a-way camp at Camp Ramah in Canada.  Even though we packed them up, four duffel bags worth, handed  their passports over to a young capable looking bus counselor, and hugged and kissed them goodbye.

After all,  I  say goodbye to my kids every morning for the entire school year – sometimes with a kiss, sometimes not.

It’s tonight that will be hard. When they don’t come home. When there will be two less at the dinner table and when my daughter’s bedroom will be empty. When my oldest son won’t be in the top bunk and my youngest son will have no one to fight with or talk to all hours of the night as he usually does. Then it will hit me.

Tonight will also be hard because tonight begins one of the saddest days on the Jewish calendar — the ninth of the Hebrew month of Av, or Tisha B’Av.

This is the first blog entry I have mentioned I am Jewish.  I don’t intend to make this a blog about Judaism, or write this blog only for Jews. But because I am Jewish, and a Jewish educator, Judaism may come up from time to time. And if it helps to lift some of the mystique of what Judaism is beyond Hava Nagila and Hanukkah, all the better!

What makes this day a sad one? On this date in the Hebrew Calendar many tragedies fell on the Jewish people -including the destruction of the two Temples – one in 586 BCE, or BC and the other in 70 CE or AD by the Romans, followed by a 2,000 year exile of the Jewish people.  Heavy, sad stuff.

Jews observing this solemn day  hold a fast from sundown to sundown, starting tonight, and read from the Book of Lamentations. To demonstrate the sadness, many sit on the floor.

I can just imagine the scene at their arrival at camp:  my kids will have to get off the bus, have a screaming, squealing joyful reunion with friends,  and then get ready to fast. Because this holiday falls in the summer, when school and Hebrew school is not in session, many Jews don’t know much about it.

Unless, you go to a Jewish summer camp. Tish B’Av has claimed its right in the Jewish religion as a very campy holiday.

A camping experience that begins with a fast to commemorate the saddest moments in Jewish history probably does not sound like a good time to the outside world. But my kids live for their time at Camp Ramah.  They talk about all the fun they have there, the friends they make and the songs they sing, the whole year long. They count down the days until they return, to live Jewishly every day with friends they only see this one month a year.

Unlike most who will be fasting alone  or at work tomorrow, in the supportive community of camp, I know that my son and daughter will find encouragement to either fast the whole day, or the wisdom from counselors and staff who will determine it’s time to get something to eat or drink.

Next, I will write about the good points and adjustments of having two out of three children away at sleep-a-way camp. And to all of you who are observing, an easy and meaningful fast.

Parenting on a tube

Last week, my family stayed two nights in Lebanon.  We sat on one of the world’s biggest harem pillows eating halvah  as we watched a belly dance performancee. After that, we saw a fireworks display over a river. That day, we also picked raspberries as we hiked through the wilderness and swam in a pristine lake, and sampled some of the best guacamole this side of the Rio Grande.

Where were we?

New Jersey.

I know. I’m starting to sound like one of those tourism ads of the 1980s starring Bill Cosby.  But I can’t help it. My family and I had a great mini vacation in The Garden State, the place of our former residence.  New Jersey is conveniently sandwiched between visiting the family back in New York and our home in Rochester. Between our old life and relatively new life.

Ten years later and I still feel a pang when we drive by the exit that we used to take to go  home when we lived in Central New Jersey.  Every return trip to Rochester, when I see the exit for S. Plainfield off of Rt. 287, I think, we could have been home by now.

My kids are getting older. They have no memory of our tiny Cape Cod in Fanwood.  I think they are getting to the point that they are actually enjoying parent-free time (demonstrated by the camp countdown that started 40 days ago) more than hanging with parent time.  That’s to be expected. But, damn it to hell, I wanted some happy family memories before we shipped them off.

Now, the highlight of our just-the-five-of-us mini vacation was a four-hour tubing excursion down the Delaware River. A time of family bonding. Togetherness.

tubers enjoying tubing down the Delaware

Do you see these happy people in the picture to the right? That is not us. It is a picture from the Delaware River Tubing Co., the nice family-run business that supplies the tubes, the mid-river hot dog (or veggie burger) lunch, and the bus ride back up river.  We did buy a waterproof camera from them, but I broke it. I would have had much difficulty navigating my tube and photographing the family anyway.  On the course of the river, I lost my hat, and nearly lost both of my shoes.

The water was warm. The currents were minimal. It was like a lazy river ride at a water park. Only, the river was real.   The kids were – bored.

Floating down a river for four hours with the family taught me many lessons that can apply to being a family:

  1. You can only control so much. You have to go with the flow.
  2. Children need solid boundaries. Encourage them to stay in their tube as much as possible.
  3. You can try to stick together. You may float away from each other from time to time, but eventually, we all come out of the river together.
  4. Try to go against the current to stop, or go backwards, and you will capsize your tube.
  5. Always make sure your shoes are securely fastened, or you can lose them in river mud.
  6. Facing rough waters is always a little better when you hold someone’s hand.

Back on dry land, the next day, on  a bridge between New Hope, Pa., and Lambertville, NJ, we watched an impressive fireworks display. Last year, Toby cowered at the booms of fireworks. This year he cheered them on, the louder the better.

“I sure wish we lived in New Jersey!” He said.

I guess he was 10 years too late.

In pursuit of a fine-free summer of reading

In our debt-inflicted society, there are some who cringe at the thought that their credit card will be denied when it is swiped at the department store, or the supermarket, or the gas station. For me, it is my library card.

I am under the impression that I will personally offend the librarian if an outrageously overdue book shows up on my account, accompanied by a hefty fine.  What book has slipped under a bed or retreated to the deepest recess of my son’s closet? How much do I owe in overdue fines and will I need to take out a second mortgage to pay for it?

In any case, a few dollars in overdue library books are worth it if the book is enjoyed by a child – or adult – through the summer.

There is something magical when a child puts vowels and consonants together and realizes they can read. It just clicks.  Words on street signs and cereal boxes come to life. Best of all, they can pick up a book and read to themselves.  Libraries in Brighton, Pittsford, and Mendon are offering plenty of incentives this summer for children to curl up with a good book, whether it is under a tree or on a beach blanket.

On June 25, the Brighton Memorial Library kicked off its summer “Make a Splash into Reading” program that runs through August 13 and is sponsored by the Friends of the Brighton Memorial Library.  Beach balls hung from the ceiling as youngsters were greeted with leis and ice pops by children’s librarian Tonia Burton. Girls dressed for the occasion in Hawaiian printed dresses. They decorated paper-framed sunglasses and said they couldn’t wait to read titles such as Math Curse by Jon Scieszka and Rapunzel’s Revenge by Shannon Hale.   

Registered children received game boards with pictures of beaches separated by five blank spaces. For every day they read 20 minutes or more, they move one space on the board.  When they reach a beach, they return to the library to pick a prize out of a beach pail – and borrow more books.  After a child reaches the fourth beach, they receive an invitation to the summer reading party in August.  For every person that finishes the reading game, the Friends of the BML will donate three books to the library.

If you missed the kickoff party at your local library there is no need to worry. It is summer, after all. Register your youngster in person or online at www.brightonlibrary.org, www.townofpittsford.org-library, or www.mendonlibrary.org.

It is relatively easy to steer eager new readers to books that contain vibrant illustrations and lively prose. But what about those independent-minded tweens and teens?  Deena Lipomi, circulation and young adult services manager at the Brighton Memorial Library said she rarely offers verbal recommendations because “that might seem too pushy.” Instead, she lets the books speak for themselves.

“I look for books with colorful, modern covers and turn them face side out on the shelves.  For teenagers, you can’t strongly suggest a book, or they may not read it, and the book can’t look dated.”  To entice this age group, Lipomi also creates book displays by theme, such as the popular vampire series. But thankfully, the classics still endure. Lipomi said that the multiple copies of Catcher in the Rye and Jane Austen are “(checked) out all the time.” 

The joy of reading can also blossom in adulthood.  Jodi Warner-Farnsworth, a retired French teacher who lives in Canandaigua enjoys the personal impact she makes on the adults she helps to read through Literacy Volunteers of Ontario County.

“The biggest gain I have seen in the people I tutor is the self-confidence that spills over into all aspects of their life. Sometimes, all they needed was just someone to believe in them,” said Jodi.

Jodi started tutoring because she was interested in giving back to the community. She also will be training volunteers this fall. Jodi teaches multi-sensory strategies that help adults with learning disabilities learn to read with visual, auditory, and kinesthetic teaching methods. If you are interested in becoming a literacy volunteer, contact the organization at 585-396-1686 or go to www.literacyvoc.org.

A lesson in art and New York City appreciation

Seeing New York City through my daughter’s eyes is quite refreshing. She loves the pizza, the culture, and the excitement, She was blown away by the hip-hop performers that flipped and jumped through a crowded uptown train. I also wondered, how did they do that without kicking anyone in the face and when do they find an empty car to practice?

And now, just like me, she loves the Metropolitan Museum of Art.  As they get bigger, I want to expose my children to  as much as possible of the city where I was born and raised. Good and bad.  The culture definitely falls into the good column.  I’d like to thank my parents, who for one summer, took my brother and I to a different museum in New York City every weekend.  Even if my brother gaped at the nude paintings and sculptures.

I’d like to thank them for staying in New York City while so many other of their friends have moved away to Florida.

I’m also thankful for art history professors who sent us to the Met to see works of art up close and personal before we wrote our final papers on them.  Visiting a building that contains so many masterpieces, seeing the actual brushwork, standing before a painting exactly where the artist once stood gave me an appreciation of color, line and composition that stays with me to this day.

It’s been 15 years since I have made a pilgrimage to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, a place that feels (I hate to say it) as sacred to me as the inside of a house of worship.  It has been way too long.  So off we went to the Met: my mom, Jolie and I.

At some point, surrounded by Picasso, I switched my cell phone off.  This was holy ground and should be treated as such.

I watched Jolie work her way through the Picasso exhibit,  then allowed her to pull me this way and that through European Baroque furniture, Greek and Roman sculpture, all the while looking for the next work of art to take in and all the while wishing she had taken her sketch book. And asking when would be the next time we would return to another day at the Met.

A switch has been turned on inside Jolie to love all that is great and cultural about New York City. But she could do without the noise, the smells, and the crowds. There was a bit of a learning curve with using her Metro card in the subway.  

She has yet to understand that putting up with the city’s unpleasantries  as they hang on to their claim to living in the Big Apple is what give New Yorkers their character. For her, she wouldn’t trade the relative peace and quiet of Rochester for the center-of-the-universe qualities of New York City. It is turning out to be a nice place to visit but she wouldn’t want to live there.  It’s just not where she is from.

Rochester, in all fairness, with all of your wonderful quality of life aspects, your great suburban school districts, incredibly affordable housing and 10 minute commutes to anywhere, you are not New York City.

Yes, I have come to appreciate Rochester’s cultural treasures, like the Memorial Art Gallery, the Eastman House, and the eclectic Artisan Works. But nothing compares to the treasures that dirty, crowded, noisy New York City holds. When I describe any of Rochester’s “tourist attractions” to friends back in New York City, I always preface it with “for a city of its size, Rochester has …..”

The MAG can never be the Met, and that’s okay. It is 10 minutes from my house, contains wonderful sculpture gardens and amazing traveling exhibits of Monet, Degas, and O’Keeffe since I have lived in Rochester.  It has free parking.

NYC friends and family: I love and miss you all very much in the months and years I do not see you and the few precious days I visit with you over lunch or a holiday meal while living up North. But I have decided that when visiting NYC, I need to start playing the tourist instead of spending much of my time in living rooms. Please try not to be offended and try to understand, and make plans to come along with me to a visit to the Met or MOMA next time I’m in town.

Revisiting Toy Story and toys

When my daughter was barely out of diapers, we left her baby brother home with dad and had our first mother-daughter date to see Toy Story 2.  At the theatre, I treated her to popcorn, which I think was $3. I had to get her one of those booster seats so she could sit up and see. Even so, she climbed out of it into my lap a few times out of fear of Zurg.  Afterwards, I took her out for her first Starbucks hot chocolate. With whipped cream, of course. 

Back then, Andy was about to go off to Boy Scout Camp. Now, Andy’s off to college, and my daughter and her brother are also a few weeks away from their own sleep away camp adventure. Luckily, we still have their youngest brother around this summer. He wasn’t even a glint in our eyes when Toy Story 2 came out.

No booster seats were needed for this latest adventure with Woody, Buzz and the gang.  My daughter, now 13, hasn’t sat in my lap in years and reached out for me only to plead for another handful of M&Ms. My sons preferred the popcorn. A large popcorn is now $8.

As I watched the movie, I thought of the speed at how my children are growing up, even my six-year-old son can no longer be classified as a baby, and wondered about the fate of all of their toys.

I remember even into to my tween years playing in the basement with my brother with all our toys. We would spend hours creating our own universe with classic 70’s play figures.  Harrowing dramas would be played out among Weebles on their treasure island.  The treasure Island with the plastic palm trees complete with a treehouse and hammock.

A nearby cruise ship – really one of my brother’s large dump trucks turned upside down, was about to sink, only with the Pirate Weebles nearby to save the passengers.

Old-school Fisher Price people – the kind today’s kids might choke on — were trapped in the elevator shaft of the Fisher Price multi-level car garage, the one with the rotating car platform on the top level. My brother would take a few fire trucks from his vast collection to save them lest the poor painted figure  that was still made in the USA would be crushed!  Somehow, a Barbie doll would always wind up unclothed and tied up, hanging precariously from my dad’s recliner.  That was my brother’s doing. I think Luke and Leah flew in to her aid.

And now? What do the makers of Toy Story 3 offer our children as a way to “play” with toys? In the 40-minute, commercial-filled video that preceded even the previews, to accompany the movie, there are not actual toys being marketed to our children, but a Toy Story 3 video game.

Yes, a video game where children can “play” with Jesse, Buzz, and Bullseye and create their own stories.  The Toy Story 3 marketers know, and even mention in this commercial, that kids don’t really play with toys anymore.  According to  a January article in the New York Times, if our kids are awake, they are most likely looking at a screen.  Why play with a plastic action figure, or slink a slinky down the stairs when you can do all that with the help of a mouse, or a joystick, or whatever contraption they use to move images on a screen these days?

Serving a rescued Barbie a tray of food in first class in her Barbie Friendship Cool Airplane – the one that came with its own food trolley — just seems like a lot more fun to me.

Kids, play with your toys. Even if you leave them all over the floor after you’re done.

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